No. 1 Stephenville (8-0, 5-0) looks to secure a playoff berth against Crowley (5-3, 4-1) tonight, and the Yellow Jackets will do it with Kody Spano under center.
Kickoff in the pivotal 8-4A contest at Memorial Stadium in Stephenville is set for 7:30 p.m.
“Oh yeah, he's going to play. He's going to start,” explained Stephenville Coach Chad Morris concerning Spano.
Spano suffered a deep shoulder bruise on his throwing arm against Cleburne two weeks ago. He did not play in the second half, and was on the sidelines during a 52-14 Stephenville win at Mineral Wells last week.
“I think having him back gives us a great lift,” Morris said. “It's exciting to know that you have your senior veteran back.”
Junior Brad Picha was called up to the varsity last week in Spano's absence, and completed 10 of 13 passes for 143 yards. His first two attempts were picked off, but he made up for it with a pair of touchdown strikes in the second half.
“Brad did a great job once he got settled down,” Morris said.
The fifth-year Stephenville Coach said Picha will play tonight.
Stephenville is running alongside undefeated Everman ahead of the pack in District 8-4A. A win tonight or a loss by Aledo would assure the Jackets of their 18th trip to the post season in the last 19 years.
Stephenville visits Everman in the final regular season game for both schools next Friday.
Crowley still controls its own playoff destiny as well. The Eagles need to upset either Stephenville tonight or Aledo in its finale next week.
“I expect them to play like a team who needs one win to get into the playoffs,” said Morris. “Their approach is that they need one win out of their last two games to get in.”
Morris is concerned with the size of the Eagles up front, both on offense and defense.
Crowley features 6-3, 275-pound Jesse Claudio on both lines. Claudio has given a vocal commitment to Oklahoma State, where he will be teammates with Spano.
The Eagles also have 6-4, 298-pound Dojvan Davis up front.
“This is definitely the biggest team we have seen this year,” Morris stated.
Like Mineral Wells, Crowley's offense is built around the ability to run the veer and option. Unlike Mineral Wells, Crowley will also spread the field and run the option out of the shotgun, something Morris calls very tough to defend.
“It puts our corners in a lot of one-on-one situations with their running backs in the open field,” Morris explained.
“We have to tackle. If they break it we don't have anybody that can run them down. They have very talented athletes.”
Most of Crowley's success on the gridiron in recent years has been credited to its defense. The Eagles shut out both Mineral Wells and Cleburne in district play, and held three other opponents to under 10 points. They are allowing only 12.1 points per game.
A handful of district foes have tried bringing constant pressure as a way to slow down the vaunted Stephenville defense. Morris doesn't expect Crowley to stunt as much as Mineral Wells, Cleburne or Alvarado.
“They will blitz some, but they don't make a living blitzing,” he said.
Stephenville will once again be without the services of starting offensive lineman Danny Moss. He suffered a concussion in the first half of a win over Cleburne, and was out last week, as well.
“It was a serious concussion,” said Morris. “It's something he's battling with, and we hope to have him back next week, but he's still having headaches.”
Brad Keith is the sports editor at the Empire Tribune. He can be reached at (254) 965-3124, ext. 241, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.